EU prepares measures against China on Hong Kong

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union (EU) is preparing countermeasures against China in response to Beijing’s new security law on Hong Kong, the bloc’s top diplomat said on Monday, but the envoys stressed that the likely steps will not amount to Economic sanctions.

FILE PHOTO: Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde attends a press conference with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov (not pictured) in Moscow, Russia, February 4, 2020. REUTERS / Evgenia Novozhenina

Diplomats said there was broad support among EU member states for some actions, but difficult measures were not discussed in detail due to resistance from China’s closest trading partners in Europe, such as Hungary and Greece.

Like much of the West, the EU has denounced the decision of the Chinese parliament to pass national security legislation for the former British colony of Hong Kong despite international protests.

While European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned last month of “very negative consequences” for Beijing, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell detailed clearer measures after a meeting of ministers of Foreign Affairs of the block in Brussels.

“We have agreed today to develop a coordinated response from the European Union to show support for Hong Kong’s autonomy and civil society,” he said at a press conference after the meeting.

“This will include measures at the European Union level and also measures that fall to the national competences of the member states in a coordinated approach,” said Borrell.

He said nothing specific had been decided, but that EU foreign ministers had discussed extending the EU’s export ban on “sensitive technology” to Hong Kong.

Borrell was referring to any equipment or software that could be used to quell protests aimed at preserving Hong Kong’s autonomy granted under the terms of its return to China by Britain in 1997.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel backed a common EU response but warned against breaking off dialogue with China.

“It is important that the EU member states are trying to find a common policy towards China and a common response,” he said during a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. “(But) this is no reason not to remain in dialogue with China.”

Borrell said EU governments could also review their extradition agreements with Hong Kong authorities, review travel advice, increase scholarships for Hong Kong students, and offer more visas to Hong Kongers.

EU governments could announce the national steps separately, but the 27-nation bloc saw its response as a package that will be defined and will come true in the coming days, he added.

Finland said it supported the idea of ​​suspending extradition treaties with Hong Kong as the new security law meant that detainees could be transferred to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the ruling Communist Party.

Additional reports by Joseph Nasr in Berlin; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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